Since the American Revolution, women have supported men in the United States Military by performing a variety of unofficial duties: helping to roll and fill musket cartridges, cooking for the soldiers, sewing flags and uniforms, and stepping into traditionally male roles at home when men left to fight. Women had even served as laundresses and seamstresses in the army during the 19th century. However, during World War II, the United States Army started moving toward incorporating women on a large scale.
On May 14, 1942, Congress authorized the creation of the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC).As the WAAC evolved, it became clear that there were distinct disadvantages to being an auxiliary corps versus a branch of the army. Women who served were not provided with life insurance, overseas pay, pensions, army rations, or quarters. The obvious solution was to integrate the WAAC into the army; however, the measure met with stiff opposition.
Opponents worried that women in the army would have to abandon domestic tasks in their homes, and might become promiscuous when living on army bases in close proximity to men. Despite opposition, on July 3, 1943, the WAAC was recognized as a branch of the army and became the Women's Army Corps (WAC). The slogan of the WACs was "Release a Man for Combat." Most women enlisted because they had male relatives fighting overseas and hoped to bring these brothers, husbands, fathers, and sons home sooner.
By the end of World War II, over 150,000 women had served in the army. WAACs and WACs were initially relegated to traditionally feminine jobs like nursing and working as typists and secretaries. However, by the end of World War II, WACs were performing a wide variety of duties, from glass blowing to photography to welding to inspecting weapons. WACs were limited to non-combat duties at Fort Moultrie from 1943 to 1947. They served as post vehicle drivers, hospital attendants, and headquarters clerks. Because of this restriction, WACs at Fort Moultrie were barred from the Harbor Entrance Control Post, which was classified as a combat zone.
In 1948, President Truman integrated the WACs into the Regular Army instead of just the Army Reserves; in 1978 the WAC was abolished, and women were fully accepted into all branches of the military. Along with women on the home front who followed "Rosie the Riveter" into factory jobs, the WAACs and WACs helped to crush stereotypes about which jobs women were fit to perform.
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